Daphne Du Maurier (1907-1989)
Du Maurier is a well-known novelist who lived and wrote in Cornwall. Perhaps less well known about her is the authors same-sex desire.
Letters unearthed after her death have revealed that Du Maurier grappled with her sexual identity often referring in her letters to her heterosexual encounters as ‘Cairo’ and to homosexual encounters as ‘Venice’.
The BBC2 drama ‘Daphne’ explores Du Mauriers sexuality, which is an excellent and unapologetic look at De Maurier’s same-sex relationships when it is still apropos to gloss over, edit and censor queer relationships of famous figures not generally associated with the LGBTQ community.
Lived in Fowey
Violet Trefusis (1894-1972)Socialite and author Violet Trefusis is most remembered in the extensive written accounts about her long-standing affair with Vita Sackville-West. The couple spent much time in Cornwall as Violet was the wife of Robert Trefusis, of the well-known Trefusis family of Cornwall. Violet was the inspirations for many of Nancy Mitford and Virginia Woolf, and her affair with Sackville West has been immortalised on film in ‘Portrait of a Marriage’
Marlow Moss (1889-1958)Constructivist artist Marlow Moss saw Cornwall as a sort of sanctuary, it was here where Moss embraced their new identity discarding the name ‘Marjorie Jewel’ for Marlow, and embracing their desire to subvert gender norms. Moss, much like Gluck, also refrained from using a prefix and was even mistaken for a man in newspaper reviews of their exhibitions. It was after this transformation that Moss fell in love with novelist Netty Nijoff and their relationship spanned over two decades. Moss returned to Cornwall, due to the threat of Nazism on the continent and ended up staying in Lamorna until their death in 1958.Part of the Lamorna Art Group
Henry Scott Tuke (1858-1929)
A British painter best known for his intimate and sensual paintings of the male nude. In the 1970s, his work returned to the limelight after he became an icon among the LGBTQ artists and community .
Tuke’s sexuality cannot be confirmed, but he did ascribe to the uranian ideology of exploring an idealised view of Ancient Greece. This Ancient Greek ideation encompasses same-sex desire and offered an opportuntity to explore and legitimise homosexual desire through artistic expression without the threat of persecution. In this way, Tuke’s artwork can be viewed through the lens of ascribing to this queer coding.
Michael Cardew (1901-1983)Potter Michael Cardews the first apprentice at Leach Pottery St Ives and later set up a pottery in Cornwall. He had many male relationships in his life as well as being a husband and father, ‘a man of paradoxes’, as detailed in his biography by Tanya Harrod. Wheal Martyn China Clay Museum.
Artist Gluck subverted gender norms and adopted an openly lesbian and gender non-conforming lifestyle.
They famously asked people to refer to them as ‘Gluck, no prefix, no suffix, no quotes’.
Arguably one of Glucks most famous paintings (see above) is of herself and her lover Nesta Obermer in a radical depiction of same-sex partnership.
‘My darling own wife,’ Gluck once wrote to Obermer, ‘my divine sweetheart, my love, my life. I made straight for the studio and tried to be busy and have more or less succeeded, except that everything seems so utterly unimportant that isn’t us or connected with us’.
Part of the Lamorna Art Group
Piers Gaveston 1st Earl of Cornwall (c.1284 - 1312)Edward II gave the earldom of Cornwall, including Launceston Castle to his favourite Piers Gaveston. Medieval Chroniclers hinted that the two were lovers and his favour for Gaveston caused much strife in the politics of the day, leading to Gaveston’s beheading in 1312.
This speculation was reinforced by Christopher
Marlowe’s late 16th century play Edward II, and other subsequent depictions of the pair in fiction.
Modern historians have been divided over the subject. Some argue that the evidence for a same-sex relationship is indisputable, while others claim that Gaveston and the King were adoptive brothers.
Henry Bishop (1868-1939)This portrait of sexologist Henry Havelock Ellis is an informal portrait of the man sitting in a deckchair in Henry Bishop’s St Ives studio. There is some evidence that Bishop experienced same-sex desire, and was a lifelong friend of the open-minded Ellis. Ellis work in the field of sexology defined queer identities and sexualities in the late 1800s, it was considered radical enough that the bookseller George Bedborough was prosecuted for distributing Ellis’ writings. St Ives- Henry Bishop’s Studio was in St Ives.